Oley/Topton American Legion trying to repeat as Schuylkill/Berks champions

File photo byAimee Herbert Nick Distasio is back for another season with the Patriots. He will be heading to Penn State University in the fall.
File photo by Aimee Herbert Austin Murr is back after leading the league in hitting last year.

The Oley/Topton Sr. Legion Patriots have known little else but success since they have moved over to the Schuylkill/Berks, including winning the league championship last season.

It will be hard to repeat last year’s accomplishments, but they will have a lot of talent on the team.

“We want to continue our progress we have made over these past years. Develop players and get them ready for the next level of competition,” said head coach Fred Van Gulik. “We have a great group of unselfish players that will work hard to achieve our goals.”

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The Patriots started the season splitting the first two games. But it was how they lost the game that really hurt. The Patriots held a six-run lead against Fleetwood heading into the seventh inning. But Fleetwood rallied to tie the game in the seventh, then eventually defeated Oley/Topton on 11 innings.

But this team is a resilient squad. In the past, they haven’t let losses like that bother them. They are able to put it behind them and go forward. Part of the reason for that is that they are a close-knit group with a lot of positive chemistry. That’s has been the biggest reason for their success according to Van Gulik.

“These players from two different school programs bond very well, they become friends for life,” said the coach. “All our players and coaches proudly wear the Legion patch and represent our communities through sportsmanship. This is what makes legion baseball different from any other baseball organization. We do not just play baseball; we play Legion baseball. We play with pride, honor and dignity, things that are at the core of this country’s ideals. Some tend to forget that legion baseball stands for what this great country is made of.”

Among the key returning players from last year’s team are a pair of pitchers - Nick Distasio and Michael Hunter.

Distasio will held to Penn State University in the fall and there isn’t much about this player the Van Gulik doesn’t like.

“He’s an outstanding athlete,” said Van Gulik. “He works to get better every time he goes out and will do very well for us.”

Hunter will attend Marist College in the fall and he’s another outstanding athlete. Coach Van Gulik loves his work ethic and expects him to be better on the mound this year after a good season last year.

Also back on the team for 2014 will be outfielders Austin Murr and Hunter Renninger.

Murr is coming off a season in which he led the league in hitting in 2013, and led the team in 2012. Van Gulik believes he is a very underrated player, he not only brings a good bat to the table, but also speed.

Renninger, who will attend East Stroudsburg University in the fall, can provide some pop in the middle of the line up for the Patriots.

“His bat developed tremendously last legion season, and he could put up some crooked numbers for us this year,” said Van Gulik.

The goal for this team is nothing less than repeating as league champions. It’s never an easy goal, but this team is certainly considered in the running.

“In order to do that, we must win when it counts,” said Van Gulik. “That can only be accomplished through dedication and teamwork.

We have the components, it’s just a matter of executing all of it at the right time.”

About the Author

Ric Webb is the sports editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at edwebb@berksmontnews.com or follow Ric on Twitter: @berksmontsports.